A woman who had debilitating ulcerative colitis for 15 years says she’s cured herself by performing DIY homemade fecal transplants with feces taken from her husband.
Saffron Cassaday, 36, had been living with the type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the colon, causing painful inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract for years.
One of the hallmark – and most distressing – symptoms is the sudden and urgent need to have a bowel movement.
Despite taking medication, Ms Cassaday said its effectiveness was waning and she found herself afraid to leave the house because of ‘trigger situations’ where she would panic she wouldn’t be able to reach the bathroom in time.
Traffic jams, airport lines, and the fasten your seatbelt sign all caused her to spiral.
Then she read about a treatment currently showing promising results in medical trials, where medically-screened stool from a healthy person is transferred into the gastrointestinal tract using an enema to rebalance bacteria in the stomach.
But she couldn’t get access to the treatment because it is not FDA-approved to treat ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
So – after reading about someone who’d seen an improvement in their condition using a DIY version – she went against doctors’ recommendations and used stool from her healthy husband, Al Mukadam.
Saffron Cassaday began collecting her husband’s stool and blending it with water or saline. She would then put the mixture in an enema bottle to administer it to herself via her rectum. She documented the process in her new film, Designer S*** (Saffron pictured above with her husband Al Mukadam)
She had been living with the type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the colon causing painful inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract, for 15 years
Ms Cassaday said: ‘I had what I call “trigger situations” where traffic jams would make me panic because I thought I wouldn’t be able to get to a bathroom in time.’
At the airport, security lines and the seat belt sign coming on when flying ‘would send me spiraling,’ and she experienced ‘shame and embarrassment’ over her condition.
‘It made me afraid to leave my house sometimes,’ she told Yahoo Life.
Ms Cassady took medication for her condition, but it was becoming less effective and was no longer properly controlling her symptoms.
She then read an article about a man with Crohn’s disease whose mom treated him using her own stool in a ‘DIY style’ of a fecal transplant at home.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract, whereas UC causes inflammation of the colon and rectum.
The medical term for transferring stool from one person to another is fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). This involves transferring medically screened stool from a healthy person into the gastrointestinal tract of a patient using an enema to rebalance bacteria in the stomach.
An enema is an injection of fluid into the lower bowel via the rectum.
The goal of this procedure is to take a screened donor’s healthy microbiota and give it to someone who doesn’t have a balanced microbiome to try and restore the health of that person’s microbiota – the trillions of bacteria, microorganisms and fungi that live in the digestive tract.
A balanced microbiota contribute to the overall health of a person and when the microbes are out of whack, it can be harmful to health.
Good bacteria is extracted from healthy donor and processed into pills or a liquid. It is then is given to patients using an enema — fluid administered up the rectum
Ms Cassaday said: ‘From there, I started doing my own research and realizing there were clinical trials going on for fecal transplant to treat IBD and a lot of other conditions. And these clinical trials were showing some promising results.’
IBD is a term for both of the conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
However, she could not access the treatment because it is not FDA-approved to treat UC or Crohn’s.
She added: ‘I couldn’t get a doctor to help me. But I thought if I could just find a way to do this, there’s a 30 percent chance it might help me.’
Ms Cassaday went against doctors’ recommendations and used stool from her healthy husband, Al Mukadam.
She began collecting her husband’s stool and blending it with water or saline. She would then put the mixture in an enema bottle to administer it to herself via her rectum.
She documented the process in her new film, Designer S***.
Ms Cassaday said: ‘Even when I watch the film now, I get so grossed out and I can’t believe that I did it.
‘It’s a matter of desperation that propelled me to do it, to ignore how gross it was and just get it done.’
After more than 100 fecal transfers between her and her husband over two years, Ms Cassaday reports she is symptom-free.
She also became pregnant, which puts autoimmune conditions into remission due to more white blood cells, called T-cells, being produced to protect the baby.
‘I feel great,’ she said.
‘It’s been about three and a half years of having no symptoms whatsoever. And my colonoscopies show complete histologic remission. I really feel like I’ve gotten my life back.’
Histologic remission is the complete healing of the colon, with no remaining evidence of inflammation.
FMT is most commonly used to treat recurring C. difficile infection – inflammation of the colon spread by bacterial spores found in feces. This is the only FDA-approved treatment for FMT in the US. It is 90 percent effective.
The protocol is approved for different treatments in various countries and can also be used for gastrointestinal conditions such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation – but success rates are much lower.
Recent studies have delved into the benefits of treating conditions linked to a poor balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, such as autism.
FMT can replenish bacterial balance as it acts like a probiotic, with samples of feces often containing up to 1,000 different species of bacteria.
The transplant is done via tubes – inserted into the nostril of the recipient, down the throat and into the stomach – or directly into the colon.
The fecal sample can also be transplanted through enemas or pills containing freeze-dried material taken via the mouth or inserted into the rectum.
There have been reports of patients showing unexpected weight gain after treatment, bouts of vomiting and even abdominal pain.
However, the long-term safety and effectiveness of FMT is relatively unknown, and researchers have called for more studies to determine the risks.
FMT is approved in other parts of the world, including Australia, Canada and the UK. It is only approved for C. difficile infection in the US.